Abba – “The Day Before You Came”

Although Abba will be forever associated with Eurovision cheesiness and sequined kitsch, their output is actually a strange mixture of naff and eerily beautiful.  Away from the hen-night end of the spectrum, they are responsible for some surprisingly bleak lyrics about love and desire and I feel it is no coincidence that they hail from Bergman country.  I find this, apparently their last recording, poignant and quite profound; more so because of its unlikely source.

Abba - The Day Before You Came

Abba – The Day Before You Came

Written in retrospect about life before the arrival of a lover, it begins with the line I must have left my house at eight, because I always do, and recites the litany of tasks and habits that make up the typical day of the ordinary working person. There seem to be too many words in some of the lines, as if the singer is chattering to fill the silence, and there is something touching about her determination to record the events, despite her uncertainty about the specific details in the endless procession of days. Nevertheless, she reconstructs in a series of vague vignettes the entire nine to five and journey home, ending with a takeaway in front of the TV before she cuddles up for yet another night, the sound of rain on the roof.

This monotonous list and slightly nervous delivery is at odds with the ominous drama of the music. Propelled by a clockwork rhythm that echoes the sound, relentless, yet comforting, of the commuter train, the melancholic synthesizers and multi-tracked backing vocals speak of the alienation of modern life.

Like many of us, the singer seems to live that life of quiet desperation; recounting the quotidian pleasures/tortures of commuting, paperwork, the lunch crowd, as if to convince herself of her purpose in existing. She never even noticed I was blue; like a cartoon character walking off a cliff and falling only when they notice thin air beneath their feet, the song is about the day when her self-sufficiency ceases to sustain her.

Succumbing to the pressure of loneliness, she trades her solitary stability for something as capricious as love, which may be as flimsy a defence against the emptiness of existence. There is a powerful sense of finality, as the singing stops and the music swells in a sort of baleful triumph and I imagine the singer has thrown herself from the safety of her solitude into the terrifying maelstrom of dependency. Irrevocably committed to this new course, she is resigned to the impossibility of returning to former comforts having once left them.

Wendy

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4 Responses to Abba – “The Day Before You Came”

  1. chasmodia says:

    Love this blog and this song. I read another interpretation once — the “You” in the title is death or heaven or God or somesuch and it’s actually about the day before some terrible accident? Plausible?

  2. 80s45s says:

    Thanks! That sounds intriguing and highly possible; very Bergman 😉

  3. Beautifully written, Wendy. Second paragraph to last brought a tear to my eye, and I was utterly weeping during the final. A very moving interpretation.

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